Area forest closures effective beginning at 8 a.m. today (Friday) include the forests around Pine and Strawberry under the Mogollon Rim.
The area included in the closure is bordered by Control Road 64 and Tonto Natural Bridge Road to the south, the power lines running from the bridge road to the Irving Power Plant to the west, the Rim to the north, and Webber Creek to the east. The Pinal Mountains south of Globe are also closed.
"The two areas are being closed due to lower than average winter precipitation, continuing drought and the thousands of acres of dead trees due to the pine bark beetle infestation," Tonto National Forest supervisor Karl Siderits said. "These conditions dramatically increase the potential for wildfires to spread."
The Tonto Natural Bridge State Park remains open to visitors and the Strawberry Festival will be held as scheduled.
Meanwhile, Prescott National Forest closed a large portion of the Bradshaw Mountains southeast of Prescott effective at 8 a.m. today. The closure is for the Castle Creek Wilderness and Horsethief Basin area.
On May 29, the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest closed the Promontory Butte area three miles southwest of Bear Canyon Lake in the Black Mesa Ranger District.
Area closures include the following prohibitions:
1. Going into or being within the area which is closed for the protection of public health and safety. Exceptions include residents who live within the closure area or their invitees.
2. Being on any forest roads or trails within the closure areas.
3. Camping within the area.
Violation of a forest closure is a Class B misdemeanor and could result in a $5,000 fine or six months in jail, or both.
Campfire, smoking restrictions
Campfire and smoking restrictions remain in effect in the Tonto National Forest east of the closure area, bounded by Webber Creek to the west, Control Road 64 and Highway 260, to the top of the Mogollon Rim.
Prescott National Forest is expanding its campfire and smoking restrictions forestwide, except in two areas on the Verde Ranger District. The Apache-Sitgreaves and Coronado national forests implemented campfire and smoking restrictions forestwide on May 20.
Under the restrictions, campfires, charcoal grills and stove fires are prohibited on national forest lands without a permit, except in Forest Service-developed camp and picnic grounds where grills are provided. Pressurized liquid or gas stoves, lanterns and heaters meeting safety specifications are allowed.
Smoking is only allowed within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site, or while stopped in an area at least 3 feet in diameter and free of all flammable material.
Fireworks are prohibited on all national forest lands.
For detailed information concerning Pine/Strawberry closures, contact the Payson Ranger District at 474-7900.
The Globe Ranger District can be contacted for information about the Pinal Mountains closure at (928) 402-6200.
For other local fire restrictions and Southwest public lands fire information, use the Internet at www.fs.fed.us/r3/fire or call toll-free 1-877-864-6985.
Last weekend, there were 10 lightning-caused forest fires in the Payson Ranger District, bringing the total number of fires so far this year to 21.
"We had a little bit of a tiny storm cell that moved over us, and we did get some action out of that," Payson Ranger District fire prevention officer Gary Roberts said. "They were all pretty much in the Bearhide Springs/Colcord Road area.
"Out of those, we caught eight at .1 acre or less, one went to .2 acre, and our biggest fire, which was at Bearhide Springs, was .5 acre."
On a national level, about 90 percent of all wildfires are caused by human carelessness. In the Rim country, where thunderstorms are more common, about half of all fires are caused by lightning and half by human carelessness -- primarily campfires that are not completely extinguished.
"People are just walking away from (campfires)," Roberts said, "and the Prescott and other forests are complaining about the same thing. It's ridiculous because it's so easy to (extinguish) them."
Both the Rodeo and Chediski fires were human-caused, the latter by a woman who set a signal fire when she got lost. That's not a wise course of action when lost in the forest, according to Roberts.
"If someone gets lost, they need to get into a field or a meadow -- a big, wide space, and if there is aircraft overhead, they need to get down and make a movement like they're making an angel in the snow," Roberts said. "I guarantee you that aircraft will see you.
"Or you can get a bunch of rocks or other material and form a large ‘X' or ‘SOS' or ‘HELP' or whatever can be seen from an aircraft."
Killing a campfire
The right way to put out a campfire:
1. Pour water on the campfire.
2. Stir with a shovel.
3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 until coals and firewood are cool to the touch.
Do not bury your campfire with dirt, sand or gravel. It can smolder for a long time undetected and break free later to cause a fire.